Tag Archives: weird fiction

Self-reference ENGINE

Self-reference ENGINE / Toh EnJoe

Why do you keep so many Freuds under the floor?

So. Now we come to Self-reference ENGINE, the final book in this series of posts (for now?).

Self-reference ENGINE is a novel

Self-reference ENGINE is a book of short stories

Self-reference ENGINE is an incoherent mess

Self-reference ENGINE is a blueprint, a literary virus that will infect the reader and as it propogates itself our world will become overwhelmingly strange

This post is gonna get pretentious.

Brief… summary

Self-reference ENGINE is structured as a series of… chapters? short stories?

I’ll call them vignettes. There are a couple of recurring themes, and some characters appear in multiple vignettes.

There are a number of possible reading orders. The book would probably make just as much sense following any of them. There’s a diagram at the beginning of the book that shows these.

Some of the recurring elements:

“self-organizing corpora of knowledge”

a nameless narrator who appears to be living backwards, or who is somehow unstuck in time

an invasion of furniture that grows from the ground and must be constantly pruned back

Continue reading Self-reference ENGINE

A highly unlikely scenario, or, A Neetsa Pizza employee’s guide to saving the world

A highly unlikely scenario, or, A Neetsa Pizza employee’s guide to saving the world / Rachel Cantor

In which things start to get complicated

A highly unlikely scenario, or, A Neetsa Pizza employee’s guide to saving the world starts a new phase of my “slightly more demanding sf” series. Specifically, it starts the phase of books by people whose personal qualifications are pretty daunting.

To say that this colours their writing would be something of an understatement.

Brief … “plot” summary

A highly unlikely scenario, or, A Neetsa Pizza employee’s guide to saving the world follows Leonard, a customer service rep for a pizza chain in a world largely controlled by fast food companies. He spends most of his days taking calls and taking care of his nephew. His sister disappears regularly on trips with her “book club”, which may or may not be a Maoist revolutionary organization.

Leonard enjoys his life, but things take a turn for the bizarre when he starts to receive calls from Marco Polo …

So how is it?

If the title of the book or the plot introduction above didn’t clue you in, A highly unlikely scenario, or, A Neetsa Pizza employee’s guide to saving the world is a weird book.

It’s also probably my favorite on this list. It packs a complex plot with a heavy dose of silliness. It’s like the best part of Snow crash climbed in a blender with A brief history of time and The adventures of Menahem-Mendel and made a delicious sf smoothie.

Mmm… smoothies.

I think I may have gotten slightly off topic here.

Anyways, it’s a good book that starts slow and ends up frolicking in a field of flowers made of Kabbalistic revisions of quantum mechanics textbooks.

This is a book where Scottish tapas is a thing.

This is a book with a protagonist who is a devout Pythagorean (anti-beans and all), another protagonist who is a follower of Roger Bacon, and everybody has a brightly coloured ‘fro.

If you are pulling a Sam the Eagle face right now, this book isn’t for you.

If you need “justifications” in your books, then this book will probably make you angry.

If you have no background in Jewish mysticism or Gnosticism this book might be a little confusing.

It’s a book where time travel is one of the central plot devices, which is something I usually don’t care for. In this case, it works, partially because Cantor’s universe is so delightfuly absurd that the time travel elements are one of the more mundane aspects of the story.

It’s a book that can be read on multiple levels. If you try to read it as a straight sf adventure you’ll probably leave disappointed because the absurdity that works on the other levels makes the base-level reading incredibly disjointed.

It adopts the satire of commercialism that makes the beginning of Snow crash so much fun, but maintains that tone throughout instead of getting sidetracked by the sudden appearance of an action movie. It works on that level. There’s a heavy dose of old-school mysticism here as well and enough namedropping that if you’re not already familiar with them it’s not going to be an enlightening experience. That’s the source of the “more demanding” aspect of this book, moreso than complex scientific/technological concepts like the next two books in this series.


I loved it, but it’s definitely not for everybody.  I’ve never actually recommended it to anybody (in my defense, I read it right about the time I quit my public library job). This is dystopian sf as portrayed by the Muppets. If that sounds interesting to you, then this is the book for you.

If you hate the Muppets, stop reading this blog immediately because I can’t believe you hate the Muppets seriously that’s like hating joy.

Specific recommendations:
Snow crash / Neal Stephenson
The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy
Moonchild / Aleister Crowley
The Illuminatus! trilogy / Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson
And the generic recommendations from this series:

The world of the end / Ofir Touché Gafla.
Annihilation / Jeff VanderMeer. First published 2014.
Man in the empty suit / Sean Ferrell.
The quantum thief / Hannu Rajaniemi
Self-reference ENGINE / Toh EnJoe


Annihilation / Jeff VanderMeer. First published 2014.

Here’s the next in my “slightly more demanding sf” series. Annihilation is the first book of the Southern reach trilogy by weird fiction author Jeff VanderMeer. It’s a little bit different than the other ones on the list, as it’s an expedition novel with touches of Lovecraft and Cronenberg.

Brief plot summary

Area X is a mysterious part of what is probably the North American continent. For years it has been completely cut off from the rest of the world. The first expedition reported that Area X was a veritable Garden of Eden. The second expedition ended in mass suicide. Every expedition since has met with an unhappy end. Annihilation follows the members of the twelth expedition (all unnamed): an anthropologist, a surveyor, a psychologist, and a biologist. Narrated by the biologist, the book tracks the twelfth expedition as they make a series of terrifying discoveries about Area X and the previous expeditions.

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